Learn About Litter and Pollution

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Any trash, from glass jars to plastic soda bottles to candy wrappers, can become litter if it isn't thrown away properly in a garbage can or a recycle bin. Not only is litter ugly to see on the ground or in waterways, but this type of pollution hurts people and the planet in multiple ways. Litter costs money to clean up, it can hurt humans and wildlife, and it also harms the environment as the chemicals in plastic break down and enter the soil or the water. But everyone can make a difference to keep the planet cleaner by picking up litter and disposing of it the right way.

Litter and Pollution Facts

Litter along roads is a big problem: Experts estimate that people driving or riding in cars and trucks made more than half of the litter we see on roads. Cigarette butts are the main type of litter found along roads. Another litter problem happens when people have containers full of things in the back of a truck or car and they fall out onto the road. But most times, when people litter, they do it on purpose, not by accident. If people can easily find a trash can to throw away their garbage, they are more likely to use the trash can instead of littering. Experts have also found that people under the age of 30 are more likely to litter than older people.

Pollution Harm

Litter makes the places where people live look and feel ugly and gross. Litter also reduces the value of people's houses, since nobody wants to live in a trash-covered neighborhood. Tourists may be less likely to visit places if they are polluted with litter. Humans and animals can get sick from the effects of pollution, and the environment can get filled with debris and harmful chemicals. Litter also costs towns and businesses money to clean up.

How to Help

Keeping areas free of litter and pollution is an important way to keep people from littering: When people see trash all over the ground, that makes them feel like it's OK to litter, but if an area is clean, people won't usually want to mess it up by littering. It might also help to put up signs asking people to throw away their trash properly instead of littering. And it's important that towns and cities offer trash cans and recycle bins where people can get rid of glass and plastic containers without littering.

  • Littering in America: The Keep America Beautiful campaign has been in place for many years, helping to raise awareness about pollution.
  • 11 Facts About Pollution: Researchers estimate that more than 1 million sea birds are killed as a result of pollution every year.
  • Litter Facts: It can seem unimportant to throw a piece of trash on the ground instead of in a trash can, but litter spoils natural areas, harms wildlife, and costs money to remove.
  • Litter and Pollution: Animals might be hurt by litter if they swallow it or get trapped in it. If litter contains poisonous substances, it can also hurt humans and wildlife.
  • Litter and Pollution Information: Litter hurts forests, rivers, oceans, prairies, and more.
  • Impacts of Mismanaged Trash: Litter makes its way to rivers, oceans, and beaches, where it can reduce the amount of oxygen and light in water, hurting animals that live in the water.
  • The Costs of Litter: Cleaning up litter in the United States costs more than $11.5 billion every year, with more than $1 billion in tax money going to cleanup projects.
  • What You Can Do to Prevent Litter: When you set an example by throwing away trash correctly, you can encourage other people not to litter.
  • Litter Prevention: Preventing litter involves reporting people who litter, encouraging others not to litter, and keeping a trash bag with you when you are out so you can dispose of your garbage.
  • Ten Way to Reduce Plastic Pollution: The best way to reduce plastic pollution is to look for ways to use less plastic in daily life.
  • Litter: Pervading the Ocean: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge mass of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Here's How Much Plastic Trash Is Littering Earth: Watch this video to learn more about the problem of litter in our waterways.
  • Stopping Litter Pollution: Storm water can move litter from smaller waterways out to the ocean, where it can hurt marine animals.
  • Ten Reasons to Pick Up Ten Pieces of Trash: If everyone would pick up ten pieces of trash, the number of people working to clean up litter around the world would be huge.

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